Have Celtics sent all the pressure to the Heat after Game 5 victory?
BOSTON -- In his walkoff interview with ESPN after the Celtics thumped the Heat Thursday night to pull within 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jayson Tatum stated in no uncertain terms that the energy has shifted in the series.
"Pressure is on them," the Celtics star said after he flirted with a triple-double in Boston's 112-97 Game 5 victory.
The Celtics warned the Heat not to let them win one game after Miami went up 3-0. Now Boston has won two straight and has seemingly fixed everything that sent the Celtics into that 3-0 series hole. The C's have dominated the last six quarters of the series and, suddenly, the spotlight is getting extremely bright on the Heat.
Miami was feeling no pressure heading into the series as an unprecedented 8-seed in the conference finals. They felt even less pressure after winning the first two games in Boston, and even less after blowing out the Celtics in Game 3. At that point, it seemed like the Celtics were going to pack it in and accept their fate.
Instead, Boston erased a six-point halftime deficit in Game 4 to keep the season alive. That led to the team's best all-around game this postseason on Thursday night. The Celtics love to play with their backs against the wall, and Tatum said Thursday night that being down 3-0 had them feeling more relaxed and able to "play more free."
Game 6 is in Miami on Saturday night, and the Heat better hope they close this puppy out. Imagine the juice both the Celtics and fans at TD Garden will have for a potential Game 7 on Monday night.
No team has ever come back from down 3-0 in an NBA playoff series, and winning four straight against the Heat is no easy task. The Celtics still have a lot of work to do.
But suddenly, Miami's margin for error is razor thin. Getting out of a 3-2 hole -- with Game 6 on the road -- is no layup, but the Celtics have overcome that deficit already this postseason against the 76ers last round. They also did it against the Milwaukee Bucks in last postseason's Eastern Conference semifinals.
"For some odd reason, even last year, we always seemed to make it a little bit tougher on ourselves," Tatum said Thursday. "But what I do know is that you can see the true character of a person, of a team when things aren't going well, and our ability to come together, figure things out when it's not necessarily looking good for us. It's unlike any team I've been on this year and last year, just the core group of guys being able to respond.
"I think that's just a testament to our togetherness, obviously how bad we want it, and we've got a room full of determined, tough guys that push comes to shove, you look to the left and the right of you, believe that the guy next to you is going to do whatever it takes and go down fighting if it don't work out," he added.
What the Celtics cannot do at this point is feel complacent. They cannot feel like they've accomplished anything yet, because they're really only halfway there. When they feel entitled to wins instead of the need to go out and fight for them, that is when the Celtics get a dose of reality.
But with history within their grasp, expect the Celtics to keep doing what they've been doing over the last two games. The Eastern Conference is now an all-out battle, and the Celtics have to make sure they keep applying the pressure to the Heat.
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